The New Year

The first day of this new year brought a welcome burst of sunshine to coax us outside.

Emerging daffodils on the first day of January

Signs of life were everywhere; the daffodils already pushing up eager, quizzical buds along the verge and the narrow borders of our front garden, as we set off for a local walk in the cool, clear morning.

Upon our return, I was reluctant to forsake the fragile sunlight so soon, instead swapping my walking boots for wellington boots and sallying out once more into the garden, freshly armed with a new pair of gardening gloves that I was given at Christmas. They proved perfect for a couple of hours of vigourous activity, pulling up and cutting back much of the decaying mass of vegetation in the back borders and pulling out a few rogue brambles that still continue to show up.

Borders in the garden before tidying

Despite my enthusiasm, this was not an exhaustive sweep of the borders: it’s early yet for cutting back ornamental grasses and other less hardy plants, particularly given our heavy soil and exposed site, and I was reluctant to raze structural beauties such as the teasels so soon, when frosts and snows are still likely to return to decorate them anew.

New growth at the base of Sedum spectabile, before and after cutting backShearing off the soggy blackened leaves of hardy geraniums and alchemilla revealed fresh shoots pushing up already, while new growth at the base of the sedums prompted me to clear the stems from some of these plants, though I left others intact this time. The contrast between the crisp russet stems and seedheads and the fresh young whorls of green emerging below makes a pleasing sight at this time of year.

Self sown Cerinthe seedlings in January

The clusters of Cerinthe major seedlings that had sown themselves at the feet of their parents benefited from clearing away the old skeletons, their fleshy leaves glowing in the thin light, seemingly unconcerned by the prospect of harder weather to come.

All throughout the borders, patches of earth appeared once more as I sloughed off the worst decay, collecting sacks full of chaff too riddled with seeds to compost at home.

Flowering scabious, dogwood stems and witchhazel flowers at the turn of the year

A clump of Scabiosa columbaria ssp. ochroleuca was revealed to be still flowering, while our young stands of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and the first red flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ add welcome blazes of colour, particularly vivid when the sun shines.

Hellebore bud, flowers and young plantsI uncovered the first purple bud on one of the hellebores I planted last year, while the serrated leaves of Helleborus argutifolius had been graced with a cluster of pale green flowers. I was hoping to plant out three new hellebores, another Christmas gift from my mum, but they still wait patiently on the patio; perhaps I can find the chance this weekend.

Garlic 'Sprint' shoots at the start of the year

In the kitchen garden, the hastily late-planted garlic ‘Sprint’ has lived up to its name in the past couple of weeks, transforming the pale pinkish claws that had curled from the seed cloves in search of light and nurture, into ranks of strong straight spears of vivid green.

Garden borders after new year tidyI left the garden as the sun moved off, the ‘good’ ache of hard work after an indolent few weeks accompanying me through the evening. The borders are still not bare, but there is space for the spring bulbs to shyly peep through now. As well as showing off some winter treasures, I also revealed quite a few ground weeds that have thrived in the mild wet weather – still plenty of work to tackle on our next dry weekend.

I hope that the New Year has begun brightly for you, full of promise for a bountiful year ahead.


23 thoughts on “The New Year

  1. I am rather jealous of all your activity today – I have had itchy fingers in my short rambles round the garden this week but have been busy with other things that have kept me from starting all these oustanding gardening jobs. It would have been an ideal day for these jobs here today

    • Not today, alas. I’ve been back at work for a couple of days – and the daylight doesn’t last long enough to garden after work for a few months yet! But New Year’s Day was a glorious day to get out.
      Hope you get some time in the garden soon.

      • Ah, I assumed it was the day you posted – good job you got out when you did, then! Unless you work at the w/e at least you have another couple more days now though

  2. My goodness, your plants are so much further on than mine – my daffs are still just shoots and my cerinthes are minute. How heartening to see so much growth!

    • I think these are just the early daffs – Rijnveld’s Early Sensation – which were in full flower around mid Feb last year, but some sites do suggest they can be in flower as early as December. Sensation indeed! Our others are being much more restrained, many just green tips so far.
      It’s lovely to see the growth, though it will only take a couple of sharp frosts or a few days of snowfall to obliterate the lot. Hmm.

  3. We too had a mild day yesterday so I came out of hibernation to do a little clearing and tidying. I must say it felt great to be out of doors again.

    • I’ve managed a few hours in the garden on New Year’s Day for a couple of years now, such an enjoyable way to start a year. I almost wish I’d taken some more time off work this week to get into the garden again since, ho hum.

  4. I have had a great start to the New Year managing to work in the garden for a few hours each day, it has made such a nice change despite the soggy ground

  5. Grrr. Once again you’re ahead of me; your daffs have buds? Grrr again. And despite several tries my cerinthe still isn’t getting established. More tries to come. And I’m afraid (as you well know) brambles will always continue to show up. Happy New Year, Sara. Dave

    • Oops. 🙂 Try Rijnveld’s Early Sensation – they really are going to be an early sensation this year, lovely colour and shape, and hardy too. My cerinthe may yet be wiped out by the weather, and I’d best get back to the brambles again soon. Happy New Year to you too Dave.

  6. Your post is ample proof that the gardener’s work is never finished! Hey, wouldn’t it good to have a couple of weeks of weather like that we had on New Year’s Day? That would certainly be a welcome relief to many of our rain-sodden plants.

    • So true. It would be lovely to have a few straight weeks of dry sunny cool weather after all the rain, to give the land a chance to drain a little.

  7. You have loads going on there. You prompt me to get outside and see what is happening in my own garden. I am pretty sure my daffodils are nowhere to be seen but I have been away for a few days so they may have snuck up when my back was turned.

    • It’s been lovely to get outside – and very mild; today I was working in short sleeves! These are early daffodils, so not *such* a shock, but a pleasant find. Hope you uncover some delights in your garden too.

  8. Like others I am amazed that your daffs have buds, but then I seem to remember being amazed at how early things put their heads up in your garden last year too. Wonderful to be able to get out and do a little gardening, always a bonus at this time of year. I have tantalizing spears of green poking up all over the place in the front and side gardens, can’t wait to see what I have coming.

    • I do love a clear dry winter’s day for getting out into the garden – it’s the perfect chance to really see what’s coming through, that you don’t necessarily notice as you hurry past the rest of the time. Exciting to see what emerges for you!

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